So, self-publishing is wayyyyyyyy less about the literary merits of your book than it is about marketing, I’ve learned. If you’re wondering why your Great (American/Caribbean/British/Other territory) novel isn’t at the top of the Amazon best-sellers list, and there’s a book at No 1 (or number 2 or number 20) that’s a couple hundred pages of mindless drivel, marketing is very probably it.
If, like me, you’re a product of the ‘don’t blow your own trumpet’ type of raising, get that monkey off your back – fast! Contacting book bloggers, book clubs and Amazon reviewers (has anyone else trawled the lists of reviewers comments to find the email addresses of people who’ve reviewed books like yours?!) isn’t for the shy and retiring kind of author. And contacting book-lovers is one thing, but having to tell them why your book is fantastic and deserves their attention instead of any one of the hundreds of thousands out there is another. You can’t afford to be shy about this. Be prepared to say, from line 1 of your email, why your book is fantastic, your storyline original and the appeal of your characters off the hook. And keep following up! Here are my top five tips for (self) promotion of your book:
1. Have an electronic press kit on the ready. Be ready at the drop of a hat to send a blogger, reviewer or web-master a hi-res jpeg of the cover of your book, a jpeg of you (if you’re so inclined), a press release (including a gripping ‘blurb’), an author bio and a typed-up page of self-made interview questions you’ve already answered.
2. Ask, ask, ask for reviews. Reviews from independent readers will get your book read by other readers. So ask for reviews – and never get upset if the review doesn’t quite say that your book is the cat’s meow. Once you get a review, say thanks and move on. Always respond graciously to people who decline to review your book – you might want to approach them again for book 2, and it’s better to be nice, anyway!
3. Know your genre – and stay there. Other writers may feel differently about this, but I personally believe that if you’re a writer, you should be trying to spend as much time as you possibly can writing. That means that time for promotional efforts, while absolutely essential, must be optimised so you can get on to the next book. It makes no sense spending time scouting reviews on blogs targeting Sci-Fi readers, if you’ve just written the historical romance of a lifetime. Reviewers will generally tell you what types of books they like to review – so query them only if your book fits that genre – and save you both some time and aggravation.
4. Keep writing. Maybe this is self-evident, but it’s easy to get lost in emails and review-requests and trawling the internet for book clubs. It might help to set aside an hour a day for promotional work (more if you need to) but carve out your writing time and keep it sacred. When your book finally makes the best-seller list, your new fans will be hungry for other things you’ve written and they’ll find another (similar) author in your genre if you don’t have anything to offer.
5. Be generous. Give your work away. Yes, that’s what I actually mean. Give away review copies, post extracts on social media and consider freebie promotions where, for a limited time, your book is absolutely free. If it’s early in your best-selling career (and even if it isn’t!) what you’re after is buzz – people who read and like your book enough to talk about it to others. If you’re not already popular, it may be a little harder to get people to spend their hard-earned money on a book they’re not sure about. A few giveaways help to get the word out there – just make sure that when your readers read your book, the content is strong enough that they’ll want to spend a few bucks to get the next one!
Good luck, people! I’m back to ‘Itch’!